Kindle Experiment for 5 Acres & A Dream The Book

One of the things discussed from time to time, is the possibility of a Kindle edition for  5 Acres & A Dream The Book. Now that I have my very own Kindle, I was curious as to how my book would look on it. I had a Kindle-ready pdf from CreateSpace, so I used Calibre to convert it to both mobi and epub formats. The following are photos and screenshots of how it looks in each of these.

I’m using chapter 4 for my example because it contains all the elements I was curious about: text, photos, and diagrams. I had to shrink the images for the blog, but we can at least get an idea of layout and legibility.

Pdf

The pdf is identical to the book. Here it is in ePub.

epub

epub

epub

The reader is on my computer, the one that came with Calibre. The mobi photos (next) are of my book on my Kindle, which I downloaded from Calibre. Please forgive the glare and wonkiness!

Kindle1 Kindle2The two eBook versions look similar in that it took two screens to display one page. Also the text formatting (or lack of) is the same. This is because they were converted directly from the pdf rather than formatted specifically for an ebook device. The pdf was originally created in a desktop publisher (Scribus) for the print version. Ebooks are created differently, depending upon the conversion method of whomever is doing it. Smashwords requires a .doc file, while Kindle Direct Publishing prefers html for the best results.

What this means is that 5 Acres & A Dream The Book would have to be formatted from scratch for each of these, both text and images.

Here are a few more samples.

pdf

epub

Kindle

In general I was pretty happy with the way the photos came out. Even though my book interior is black and white, that didn’t make a difference on my basic Kindle, which only displays B&W anyway. The Kindle Fire will display color photos, which would be a definite plus on that device.

The real test was copies of my various master plans.

pdf

epub

Kindle

At 4.75″ by 6″, the image on the book page is barely legible. When displayed on the 3.5″ by 4.75″ Kindle screen, it is impossible to read; the labels are simply too small. Considering that the master plans get a lot of interest and positive feedback, this would be a real problem.

To consider producing eBook versions would take a lot of work. The book would have to be rebuilt from the ground up for each venue. The master plans, however, appear to be the deal breaker.

Feedback? What do you all think?

In Which I Break Down & Buy A Kindle

I did it. I finally did it. I finally broke down and bought a Kindle. I looked at other eReaders but finally decided on the Kindle, which is unarguably the most popular eReader out there.

Why did I do it? I have nothing against eBooks, mind you. I think they are great and folks who have eReaders love them for their portability plus ability to carry around so many books at once. Also, eBooks are much more economical to buy than print books. I can relate to that. What I don’t care for, are the proclamations of the young whippersnappers who declare that print publishing is dead. Nothing is a good substitute for a real, live, hold in your hand, page turning book.

When I prepared 5 Acres & A Dream The Book for publication, I researched doing it in a mobi format as well as print. I learned that for as many photos and diagrams as I have, mobi was not a good option. Still, for personal use, what argument could I find for not having a Kindle? I was running into too many good free and discount offers for books I’d like to read. I started to consider it.

Also I was curious as to how 5 Acres & A Dream The Book would actually look on an eReader. How bad could it be? I have a pdf copy (downloaded from CreateSpace in an effort to convince me to make an eBook edition available too). I can convert this to mobi with Calibre.

Now my mind is wondering about ePublishing, even though 5 Acres The Book is not an option. I doubt that Critter Tales, my work in progress, would be a good candidate either, for the same reason. But, another book on my list of possibilities is a how-to type book, maybe, The Little Book of Homestead How-Tos. Possibly I could write these as stand-alone pieces, each as an eBook, although many of my how-tos rely heavily on photos. The collection could be published in paperback. Something to think about perhaps?

Of the Kindle itself, yes, I do like it. But you know what? I still like hard copy paper books better.

How to Write a Better Review for Amazon (Or Anyplace Else)

How many of you use customer reviews when deciding whether to purchase something? I certainly do. I usually read the “most helpful” 5 star and critical reviews, choose a few in between, then make choices based on my analysis of these.

Reviews took on a different meaning when I published my own book. Of course I hoped for lots of 5 star reviews and dreaded the first 1, 2, or 3 star reviews. I didn’t know what to expect either way, but mostly I hoped for reviews that would help me become a better writer and publisher.

In reading reviews, I mentally categorize them as either helpful or not helpful. This isn’t based on the reviewer’s rating of the product, but rather on the content of the review itself.

A rating system (stars at Amazon, for example) is subjective. Very subjective. A helpful review explains the reasoning behind the rating. I once had someone tell me that they never gave 5 star reviews because they didn’t trust them. Their review of my book was an excellent, well-written one, but I’m sure it left folks wondering why it got dinged one star.

Being a subjective assessment, the rating often reflects the reader’s previous knowledge and expertise on the subject matter. The book may be excellent at an introductory level, but less helpful for someone looking for more advanced or specific material and therefore get a variety of ratings. The rating will reflect the reader’s expectations plus how well their needs were met. Reading multiple review helps determine this, but I think the author can help by disclosing this in the blurbs. Potential customers can also ask questions (on Amazon, at least) to clarify their own concerns.

Another problem with the rating system is that it is sometimes improperly directed. With products, for example a low rating is often given to a good product if a customer has a bad experience with a third party seller. It would be better if the reviewer used the proper venue for this, by leaving third party seller feedback.

One thing that helps is that Amazon enables other customers to rate and leave feedback on the comments. I find these useful as well.

So what makes for a good review?

For products, I tend to skip over reviews from folks who’ve just purchased or only had the item for several weeks. At this stage, everyone rates well unless they had a bad customer experience or got a dud (although too many duds or a consistent specific problem doesn’t bode well for the manufacturer). A review from someone who has been using the product for months or longer is much more useful.

If a rating is less than 5 stars, my first question is “why?” Personal opinion is never right or wrong, but the rationale for the rating may help someone else in their decision making. Often, the product if fine but doesn’t meet the buyer’s expectations. That’s where good product descriptions and customer reviews help if they contain good details. For books, especially non-fiction, it often means that the blurb does not accurately reflect the content. I’ll be the first one to admit that writing a blurb for oneself is extremely difficult. Yes, it’s a opportunity to sell books, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to let the reader know what to expect.

Last but definitely not least, is giving a rationale for the rating. If it didn’t meet expectations, why not? Give some examples of what you liked and what you didn’t. Was it helpful? Tell us how. Did anything stand out? Tell us what. Is there something you wished was different? Give us details. Was the book interesting, humorous, thought provoking? Would you read it again or recommend it to others?

Personally I think customer reviews are one of the best innovations to hit marketing, especially in a day and age when the truth in “truth in advertising” has been redefined (as has “quality). So, take some time to review products or books that you have something to say about. I invite you to take a look at my book reviews (including my first 3 star and first spam review) here. If you have the time and inclination, please join the conversation.